Monday, 22 October 2012

Nosey Car-parkers

There's something I don't get. Well, there are many things I don't get; principally amongst them I suppose we could say High School Musical, going to football matches not to watch them but to fight instead and how Labour voters make it through the day without falling down more. But that's not what we're talking about today. Nope, today I thought I'd bring up something which has probably enfuriated almost everybody in this country at one point or other. Imagine the scene…

You are driving on a motorway to visit an out-of-town relative (if you don't like any of your relatives, perhaps imagine you are commuting to work - the key is the motorway, though it happens on A roads too). You start to see brake lights in the distance. You notice the traffic slowing. The last chance to avoid this traffic slips by your window, 3 lanes to the left as you have failed to decide quickly enough whether to come off at the junction and freestyle it through the back roads and are instead trapped in the outside lane by a procession of increasingly tightly-packed decelerating cars. You come to a halt. You issue an expletive and look at your watch. Okay, that's life. You have hit traffic.

You notice that on the other side of the road everything is flowing just fine. You wonder what is going on up ahead? Roadworks? An accident? Well, you're going to find out in an hour and 1.6 miles or so. It's an accident. That's a shame. "I hope everyone's ok" you think. Or if you're now running very late or have screaming children in the back seat accompanying your increased blood pressure, you may think less generously along the lines of "why can't whatever numbskull up ahead drive properly (like me, the best driver in the whole world) - that's an hour of my life I'm never getting back because he can't mirror, signal, manoeuvre" or something along those lines.

Then as you draw closer you notice that the flashing lights are not on your side of the carriageway. Nope. They are restricted to the hard shoulder 40 metres to your right, next to a car with a crumpled bonnet and a car with a smashed tailgate. "Has the accident been so violent as to throw a lorry fully across the central reservation and into 3 of the 4 lanes (motorway dependant) on your side of the road? Surely that is the only reason we have been crawling at a speed not fast enough to show up on either the speedo or the GPS? " you think.

Except you don't.

Because you now know why your side of the road is doing a mile per hour: So everyone can get a good look at what remains of the accident on the other side of the road.

Yup, it is generally the way that an accident screws up the side of the road it is on for a short amount of time whilst they move it out of the way, and then a far longer time on the other side whilst everyone rubbernecks on the way past. What a bunch of belters we are. Are we checking to see if it is anyone we know? Who'd want to find out that way anyway? Are we thinking perhaps we will identify the very situation our unique set of skills were put together for by God himself, ready to swerve to the hard shoulder and sprint across the carriageways to save the day?

Nope, we're all just a bunch of really nosey bastards. We want to look for the same reasons we watch hilarious home videos of chairs collapsing under brides, dancing troupes can canning off the side of a  stage, teenage would-be stuntmen just failing to clear the swimming pool in a single bound and why we like sitting on ski lifts watching the slopes below hoping people will fall over. Schadenfreude. Basically we're all gits.

All the You Tube-ing though costs us nothing. Yet as a collective mass, with slowing down to check on someone else's misfortune, we contribute to our own misery - the traffic jam. It's life's way of paying you back for being a git. Problem is, it catches out everyone on the road, git or not. Even the people like me, who don't feel the need to check out what happened. So, in my totally blameless case, non-git and un-nosey bastard that I am, when I pass the accident the reason I am slowing down is just to check what it was that other people wanted to look at thereby costing me an hour of my life. The gits. If only there were more people like me...

Friday, 19 October 2012

The Postman Used to Ring Twice

So the Royal Mail is thinking of scrapping its '2 tier' system for delivery in favour of a single 2 day service. Super. In other news… Labour are going to balance the budget and Andrew Mitchell is going to be the guest of honour at the Association of Police Authorities Christmas Ball.

Well those aren't entirely accurate comparisons. Thrasher Mitchell clearly isn't going anywhere near the plebs, sorry, the plods, if he can help it. However Labour certainly are going to promise to balance the budget just as Royal Mail may promise to fulfil the new pledge of a 100% 2 day delivery service for a price below first class. And they too are telling porky pies like you read about. Yup, you would have to be a moron (as the current polls tell us over a 1/3 of the country are) to believe either of these preposterous claims.

First class post used to be a same or next day delivery. Now it is not even guaranteed next day. So the service has gone downhill. Where has the price gone? Yup, you guessed it - through the roof. Second class post now averages out somewhere in the region of a week to deliver. Oh, I know you will still find the odd letter now and again that will be delivered quickly, but it is the exception, not the rule.

My point is, Royal Mail will be allowed to scrap the vestiges of the next day delivery and in compensation we will receive a lower price for the new universal mail. For all of 35 seconds. Royal Mail will then be granted another so-massive-it-can't-even-see-inflation-in-its-rear-view-mirror-as-it-laughs-all-the-way-to-the-bank price hike in the cost of the new 'first class' stamp. Because if the fastest you can pay for something to be delivered is now 2 days, this new 'used-to-be-called-second-class class' is their de facto 'first class'.

Yup. And then, you will notice that as the complaints start rolling in that the 2 day guarantee isn't being hit they'll point you to the very small print that states they'll try really really hard to deliver within 2 days, but if they don't make it, it's the thought that counts. What a load of old cock. Quite simply, if Royal Mail are allowed to do this all we will get is a worse service that within a very short space of time will cost more.

Why do I hold such a cynical view? Because my friends, I like many of you have sat in my house, watched the postman walk up the drive and without so much as a knock on the door let alone 2 rings on the bell, post a "sorry you weren't in, please drive miles to collect the mail someone has paid the correct postage to have delivered to your door, oh, and visit only during the hours most inconvenient to you" card (they've shortened it to the bare-faced lie, "sorry you weren't in") and fuck off on his merry way. It is a crap service run with no care, no integrity and no thought for serving the customer or for being allowed to wear the royal insignia.

And by means of a vicious non-sequitor to finish, just so you know where I am on it, Apple's new maps for iPhone is about as much use as mudflaps on a tortoise...

Monday, 8 October 2012

Plumbing the Educational Depths

I thought I should probably write something about conference season. I've been very lax recently and have satisfied my anger at the world with furious note-taking or memo-recording. I suppose I should probably convert some of that diatribe into some internet words…

Nothing new from the Lib Dems or Labour - no surprises from either. The Lib Dems are claiming everything good from the Coalition whilst pretty publicly crapping on their Coalition partners in a desperate attempt to get out of single figures. Oh, and of course banging on about Mansion Taxes and other economically illiterate policies they plan to hold the Tories to ransom over. Labour are still full of themselves and can't remember bankrupting the nation over the last 2 decades. Also, forgive me for not joining the 'oh, isn't Ed Miliwho suddenly very Prime Minister-in-waiting-ey' club. He's still a massive tool. And he still has no policies. Except class envy. That old chestnut. In fact when pressed to say what he might do he has finally owned up to one of the great political white elephants…

Ed maintains that it is stupid for him to tell you what he would do differently because the election isn't for 3 years and we don't know what state the economy will be in. So, just to clarify, because he has no chance of being in power now he will simply bitch about everything the Tories are currently doing whilst providing no tangible alternatives until his 2015 manifesto (which presumably will have to be released the night before the election in case things change).

Yup, he had admitted there is no need for an opposition until election time. Labour may as well head off on a gap yah - nothing to see here, just a bunch of people sitting on green seats whose job is to criticise but definitely not put forward any other ideas.

Actually that's not entirely fair. There is one 'policy', and I use the term vaguely. Let's call it a headline aspiration - it might get a headline and and as there's been no research at all into its viability, not calling it a policy means you can't make a policy U-turn by deciding against it in years to come. Who ever heard of an aspiration U-turn? Anywho, the policy/aspiration is to remember the people that New Labour intentionally forgot - "the other 50%".

Ed is talking here about the other half of the youf population who do not go on to university. You may be old enough to remember Tony Blair setting his wonderfully arbitrary target of 50% of school leavers to go to university. It was not a number arrived at by a clamouring from industry for more media studies graduates, or even more graduates. This was all just a product of class envy. They sold it as 'you can't get a proper job unless you've got a degree like all those posh kids whose parents vote Tory'. What it led to was the uncontrolled increase in Mickey Mouse courses and 'universities' saddling these new graduates with a lot of debt and a useless qualification. I wrote about it a while back here. It totally missed the point of why we taxpayers pay for people to attend university when we don't pay for them to go to Eton. It's a limited pot so let's send the ones who will do the country the most good by being educated a bit more...

Society is broad. The cross section covers all types of people with all types of skills. Some are good at cricket. Some are excellent at kabaddi. There are some gifted painters. Some of this is luck, some of it work, some of it training - nature/nurture. Whatever.

Not all of them are academically gifted. This doesn't mean these types are not clever, though it is certainly true there are also a lot of not clever people in the melting pot. Turn on daytime TV - they tend to be sitting on chat show armchairs screaming at someone with a caption in the bottom corner of the screen along the lines of "I'm throwing out my daughter because she's having a third child by her brother". You know the shows. Remember - one man, one vote. Gotta love democracy. Getting off track…

The point is it was a Labour policy that focused everyone incorrectly on university when it didn't do them or us (John Q. Taxpayer) much good. It was them who forgot the 50% as well as misleading into wasteful courses a good 10-20%. When anyone mentioned that university was perhaps not the best for all involved (taxpayer and student) you were an elitist bastard trying to keep the poor out of the secret garden.

The same is broadly true of secondary education, which is why I for one am delighted by Red Ed's 'idea'. It certainly is about time that we worked out that we can't all be PR men, city bankers and CEOs and that it might be an idea to play to people's strengths rather than patronise them by suggesting academia is the only way forwards. Not just is there not room for everyone to have these jobs, some people will be shit at them - including some who actually do have the jobs I hear you say. For years anyone suggesting offering less academic and more technical courses to those more adept at the latter and less adept at the former was again, you guessed it, elitist right wing scum who was trying to limit the chances of the lower classes by sending them down the mines instead of up to Oxford. Or something like that.

Point is, it's great that the left finally acknowledge that if you take the class envy out of it, academic education beyond 16 isn't for everyone (and probably before 16 for some non-core subjects, though they haven't gone that far). If the last 20 years have shown us anything it is that pushing the academic only route does not raise academic standards and most likely demoralises and devalues the other very viable options. At the very least this has opened up the debate. Like the left finally talking about mass immigration meaning it became ok for anyone on the right to without being branded a racist, we might now get somewhere. For that one thing, I am grateful to Red Ed. There is hope yet in the education system if we are allowed to talk about people not being suited to academia and not being branded as anti-aspirational Nazis. Maybe then we can find suitable education paths for more people and give you an outside chance of your plumber speaking English.

On a side note, and by means of explanation of that last remark I nod my head to the dearth of British people employed in many sectors where they previously dominated - manual and service jobs being the main ones. With a population that is getting shitter at doing things themselves (I read an article recently that put the cost of not being DIY literate at about £150,000 over a lifetime as we 'get a man in' to do jobs our parents and grandparents would knock off in a Sunday afternoon in their 'work jeans') I reckon I'd rather be a master plumber or carpenter than have a social studies degree from the University of Little Crappingdon. Anyway, on that note, I must go - there's a Polish chap at the door here to fix my boiler...